The flames and the smoke billowed out of the top of the Crew Stadium scoreboard before Columbus planned to take the field against D.C. United on Saturday night.
Several quick thinking folks captured the images and dispersed quips in a bid to sum up the situation. The pictures helped to spread the word to pertinent parties outside the region, but the mere statement of events offered more than enough for outsiders to process.
As one might expect, it is quite difficult to prepare for or play a match with smoke floating through the field. Fans quickly made their way to safer locations. Players returned to their locker rooms. The proper authorities – including club honchos from both sides, league executives and local fire officials – convened to discuss the matter (“yes, the scoreboard is in fact on fire”) and decided to postpone the start of the match until the firefighters could extinguish the blaze.
Ladder trucks approached both sides of the scoreboard and started to douse the flames. Or at least the rather incredible pictures distributed around the world indicated that particular timeline of events. The height of the scoreboard – it is antiquated and the speakers spontaneously combust occasionally, but it is still quite large – required some additional reinforcements to deal with the situation.
It took a little bit of time for the firefighters to do what they do, but the professionals took care of their task and quelled the uprising. Both teams emerged from the locker rooms a half-hour later to start their preparations. The kickoff set for roughly half-past seven turned into a kickoff slated for roughly half-past eight.
The disruption – if not the excitement and the intrigue – proved minimal at best. Columbus bounded out after the delay and scored three times in the first half to thump flailing United. The efforts unlocked a bevy of atrocious puns for hopeful headline writers in the greater Columbus area. Not that they needed much in the way of material on this night.
Columbus president and general manager Mark McCullers made a statement and spoke with reporters after the furor subsided. He noted the fire took place in the speaker cabinet, praised the Columbus Fire Department for its response and promised to arrange temporary audio and video capabilities in time for New York's nationally televised visit on Saturday.
“We don’t have any details on what caused it,” McCullers told reporters, according to the club's website. “The fire marshal is going to be in on Monday and he didn’t want to get up in there (the scoreboard) tonight. That process is going to take place on Monday, so obviously we could speculate, but I’d rather not.”
For most people, the details and specifics won't matter. They know the salient point from the events on Saturday night: the scoreboard burst into flames.
Five Points – Week 9
1. Leave it to Laba...or not: Toronto FC clinched the admittedly expensive signing of former Argentina under-20 central midfielder Matias Laba from Argentinos Juniors last week. Laba is expected to fill the gaping hole in the center of the park for the Reds when he is ready to feature. Unfortunately for the Reds, his arrival won't solve all of the concerns. TFC reinforced those issues during a uniformly poor display in the 2-1 home defeat to New York on Saturday. The overall display – and the unacceptable individual offerings by too many of the players – underscores the progress required in order to meet the stated objective of securing a first playoff berth.
2. Rancor builds between...FC Dallas and Vancouver?: Two games in two weeks breeds a bit too much familiarity. How else to describe the fallout from this topsy-turvy 2-2 draw at B.C. Place? Vancouver fans brought score cards to grade potential FCD dives during the match. FCD coach Schellas Hyndman carped about Jackson's dismissal (a straightforward decision after he lashed out at Alain Rochat) and the video replay selections inside the stadium (isn't it time MLS folks stop lamenting these types of choices and turn their focus to more important matters?). Perhaps a lengthy cooling off period – the two teams do not meet again until September – will provide enough time to sort out the angst.
3. Tactical shift sparks New England attack: The status quo simply couldn't exist any longer in Foxborough. No Revolution player had scored since opening day. Revolution coach Jay Heaps altered his usual shape to a 4-1-4-1 setup and handed Lee Nguyen and Kelyn Rowe central playmaking roles in a bid to spark the sputtering offense ahead of Saturday's 2-0 victory over Philadelphia. The adjustments worked. Nguyen and Rowe thrived in the middle of the park and used the space to create several opportunities. Diego Fagundez (productive in a wide midfield role designed to stretch the field horizontally) and Nguyen ultimately scored to hand the Revs their first home win of the season against a Union side that simply didn't cope well with the movement through the middle of the park.
4. What club uses 'the team is the star' mantra again?: Los Angeles traveled to Rio Tinto Stadium without Landon Donovan, Todd Dunivant and Robbie Keane. The MLS Cup holders leaned on their significant depth – even rookies like Greg Cochrane and Charlie Rugg (first career goal in his first career start) – to notch a 2-0 victory at Real Salt Lake on Saturday night.
“It wasn’t just Donovan and Keane, there were five players that started tonight with the Galaxy that aren’t typically in their strongest eleven,” Real Salt Lake coach Jason Kreis said after his side – minus the influential Alvaro Saborio – succumbed to the makeshift Galaxy. “So much so that when I got their lineup I was nervous to even write it up on the board. I was wondering if there was any way I could just sneak it in that they were playing LA’s strongest lineup. I feel that our guys have had a tendency over the past to let down when they are playing a team that they think is weaker than they are; and tonight they got shown that team isn’t weaker than we are. Their eleven was better than our eleven.”
5. Another week, another injury, another result for Colorado: No team should have to cope with the injury crisis afflicting the Rapids right now. Hendry Thomas (left hamstring strain) joined the extended injury list during Sunday's 1-1 draw at Houston. His departure did not stop the Rapids from claiming a fifth result in their past seven attempts, though. Oscar Pareja and his remaining players – now including the finally recovered Martín Rivero – deserve plaudits for sticking to their task week after week despite the constant upheaval. The only thing left to do: stop picking up those knocks.
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